Miami University’s Honors Program has a long list of successful alumni. In this issue, we’d like to highlight Ken Sweder, a 1991 alumnus who is no exception to this list.
Ken is a currently the President and Chief Operating Officer for Interline Brands, where he has been an executive since 2007. Ken currently oversees the company’s Distribution and Operations, Global Sourcing and Supply Chain, Corporate Development, Merchandising, and Sales and Marketing—a list of responsibilities that keeps him plenty busy, since Interline is a privately owned, 1.3 billion dollar, distribution company that sells over 100,000 products to businesses across the United States!
Ken’s story before he began his illustrious work with Interline, however, includes some oddly coincidental overlaps with the recent presidential candidates. Ken attended Miami at nearly the same time as fellow Miami alumnus Paul Ryan (’92). Indeed, one of Ken’s good friends was a fraternity brother to Ryan. Ken also has an MBA from the University of Chicago—which he completed at the same time that Barack Obama was a professor of law there. After earning his MBA, Ken took a consulting position with Bain & Company—the year after Mitt Romney left the company to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. In fact, the only candidate Ken is not indirectly connected to in some way is Joe Biden.
While Ken’s experiences have afforded him some fairly random and indirect political connections, they have also helped to shape him into the person he is today. Ken notes that Miami University was a critical part of this: “I feel incredibly proud to have a degree from Miami University… as I think back, it was the perfect place for me.” Ken echoes many Miami alumni in describing Oxford as “a place where the sky was the limit for what you wanted to achieve as an individual.”
Ken notes that the Honors Program, in particular, was helpful in providing him with perspective as a student at Miami, challenging him to broaden his horizons, take different and diverse types of classes outside of business, and meet a lot of interesting people. One honors faculty member, Dr. Susan Barnum, was especially influential for Ken—he cites his interactions with Dr. Barnum as a fundamental reason he shifted his perspective on achievement and education.
Although Ken eventually refined many of his abilities as a general manager, team leader, and strategic business leader through his graduate and professional experiences, he considers his time at Miami a strong foundation: “They really prepare you exceptionally well for anything you do after you graduate.” This must be true—Ken’s success since he left Oxford certainly attests to high remarkable abilities, preparation, and training!